Pilot project aimed at troubled youth

New funding from the provincial government aimed at strengthening mental health services for children and youth will be used to establish a pilot project here in Rainy River District.
The child and youth crisis response pilot project will provide after-hours help for youth, including assessment and suicide intervention.
“We will be training our on-call child welfare staff who work after-hours in suicide prevention,” said Betty-Anne MacKintosh, manager of community services at Family and Children’s Services here.
FACS submitted the proposal for the program to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services last year. The funding was announced Jan. 18, with $13 million allocated to create 113 new programs and expand 96 existing ones.
“These programs will help Ontario’s children and youth succeed in school and go on to become healthy, productive adults,” Children and Youth Services minister Dr. Marie Bountrogianni said at the time of the announcement.
“The funding was for innovative, community-driven mental health services,” noted MacKintosh.
The local FACS office will receive $90,000 for this fiscal year and another $339,000 for the next.
The goal of the project, according to a report submitted to the ministry by the Kenora/Rainy River District Community Planning Session, is “to provide children and youth with severe emotional/behavioural problems at risk with immediate access to crisis response services and assessment services, as close to home as possible.”
“That’s something we don’t have right now,” said MacKintosh. “I think it’s a much-needed service. People have another place to call.”
A child or youth in emotional distress—or a family member—can call FACS and speak to a trained child welfare worker.
“They do an assessment and a safety plan,” MacKintosh explained. “Based on that risk assessment, they can determine how to respond to that situation, either through a visit, or over the phone, going to Emergency, or through a referral to another resource or program.”
At present, MacKintosh said many youth at risk of committing suicide are taken to Emergency at the hospital. FACS is hopeful this new program will mean more children will receive direct counselling and fewer will go to the hospital.
“We believe the outcome will be that severe or serious crises will be resolved in the least intrusive way and that demand on emergency services will be reduced,” she remarked.
The proposed start date for the nine-month pilot is March 4. MacKintosh noted it only will be put into effect in Rainy River District, where FACS has child welfare jurisdiction, which does not include First Nations.
“We will be meeting with Weechi-It-Te-Win [Family Services Inc.] very soon to discuss a working agreement or a protocol to assist in this pilot project,” she said.
“What we’re hoping is if we can get this off the ground and running, other jurisdictions can use this model.”
This will depend on approval from the ministry, which will review the program after the nine months are up.
“The ministry will review its effectiveness. It could be implemented across Kenora-Rainy River,” MacKintosh said.
FACS also will meet with members of the local medical community “to speak about the program and how we can work together in a seamless fashion,” she added.
Training is going on today and tomorrow so staff can learn how to prevent the immediate risk of suicide.
LivingWorks, a public service corporation dedicated to helping communities prevent suicide, is providing the training through the ASIST workshop (Applied Suicide Intervention SKills Training).
Child welfare workers from as far away as Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Sioux Lookout—as well as 18 staff members of the local FACS office—are attending the two-day session.
“It’s excellent training for any agency who does children’s mental health,” MacKintosh noted.